1939: 1 movie

(Last updated 12 January 2014)

Destry Rides Again 
Directed by George Marshall
Produced by Islin Auster and Joe Pasternak
Written by Felix Jackson, Gertrude Purcell, and Henry Myers
Acting by James Stewart, Marlene Dietrich,
Brian Donlevy, and Una Merkel
Music by Frank Skinner
Cinematography by Hal Mohr
Editing by Milton Carruth
Art Direction by Jack Otterson
Set decor by Russell A. Gausman
Costumes by Vera West

   1939 was certainly a year for spectacles. With all the money pumped into the movies by this time, movie-makers understandably believed that bigger and more expensive meant better. And yes, there are certainly some wonderful moments in many of the blockbusters of this year, but none of them have the tightness and thrill of "Destry Rides Again". This movie seems to have been misunderstood, even to this day, as a comedic Western, but it is no more that than "Casablanca" is a comedic romance. Yes, it's got a good dose of comedy in it, but that is a brushstroke the director uses to convey the carefree chaos that the town was in before Destry arrives. And it does certainly feels like things go a lot smoother (for most people) before Destry shows up. His arrival actually seems to bring everything to an instantaneous boil. But isn't that how any revolution is? A population torn between wanting to go further with their goal and wanting to turn back. That is the power of this movie: that it gracefully simplifies politics  down to the debate over what constitutes the good life, and how far people are willing to go to achieve it.
   Additionally, the consistent focus on the female perspective, the struggle of the various women-archetypes, and their power both individually and as a group demonstrates the realistic sexual aspect of this cinematic gem.
   No one on earth could have done a better job than Jimmy Stewart in the title role, nobody but Brian Donlevy could have been as conniving, and nobody but Marlene Dietrich could have been as fiery. It's a stellar cast and an ambitious script brought to life with such vibrancy that one can not help feeling the multitude of emotions that the townspeople were dealing with. And really, how much has changed in our attitudes of what makes a tough and cool individual? It seems that we still tend to mistakenly admire the bad guys, that is, until a genuine good guy like Destry rides again.

No comments:

Post a Comment